Kareem ‘Biggs’ Burke, Co-Founder of Roc-A-Fella Records, Talks Recognizing The Genius of Kanye West
According to Kareem "Biggs" Burke, Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder, Ye has a unique impact, even beyond music.
Biggs was asked to reflect on his first encounter with the artist formerly known as Kanye West in a new Netflix interview with Speedy Morman, host of Complex's 360 With Speedy Morman. The interview takes place on the day of the release of the third and final act of Coodie & Chike's jeen-yuhs documentary.
“Hungry, talented, comedic. … His thirst to get on was, like, unmatched, even for the people that we had down with us,” Biggs recalled of his early interactions with Ye. “You know, we had a lot of talent with us but not the hunger that he had. Put it this way, he would play a beat for Jay[-Z], and then start rapping his own verses. He was like, ‘Look, you’re gonna take this beat with me, without me, whatever it is.’ And nobody else would do anything like that or even have the balls to do something like that.”
Around two minutes into the video above, Biggs spoke about Roc-A-Fella's view of Ye at the beginning of his career, and Speedy noted that Coodie mentions this in the narration of one of the documentary's most inspirational scenes.
“I did,” Biggs said when asked about people not taking him seriously as an artist at the time. “Hell yeah. The talent was something. And the sound, sonically, he had brought something that we hadn’t heard, even to the point that Dame didn’t believe in it. So Dame was like, ‘Look, let’s make this first project a mixtape and then put everybody on it.’ And I was like, this project is too special, the talent is too special. I fought for that, you know, so he could have that solo album [and] so it could be a full Kanye project.”
From there, Biggs noted his own ability to recognize strengths in other people that they may not be aware of. Additionally, he emphasized the importance of investing time, money, and energy into something when one truly believes in the work and in oneself. When Biggs was asked to explain what "genius" to him means, he backed Ye's having multiple projects planned out from the beginning of his career.
“You see the results from Kanye and I thought he as a genius early on. … The comedian comes out, the lyricist comes out, and the song-making ability comes out,” Biggs said. “And you really didn’t have a lot of people with that trifecta at that time. I knew he was gonna be one of the biggest artists of all time. And not only that, as we got to know him, we knew he was gonna be the biggest brand of all time.”
Toward the end of the clip, Speedy asked Biggs to share his favorite memory of Ye's journey to becoming the multi-media creative force he is today, prompting him to reveal an international trip that affected his work going forward.
“Introducing him to Europe because he didn’t wanna go,” Biggs said. “He did not wanna go to Europe. Like, literally, we had to go get him and force him in the car to put him on the plane.” Continuing, Biggs then mentioned the late Virgil Abloh, noting that he later thanked him for pushing Ye to get on that plane.
“He was like, ‘Yo, thank you for bringing Ye to Europe because that opened it up for all of us,’” Biggs said, adding that Ye “fell in love with Europe,” which ultimately had an impact on his creative process.
“He fell in love with Europe and that actually opened up everything for him fashion-wise, which actually built him more of a brand and made the music, you know, more expansive,” Biggs added. “So that right there is one of the great memories, because he fought tooth-and-nail against that.”